At the same time word started to spread about the toxic-water woes in Flint, Mich., Canyons District began stepping up efforts to ensure safe water is flowing in its schools’ drinking fountains and sinks. As a result, the District has nearly two years of records that track the quality of water being consumed by Canyons students, teachers, principals and volunteers.
“It’s a stated goal of the Canyons Board of Education and Administration to build and maintain safe and welcoming learning environments,” said Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe. “As part of our ongoing efforts to improve and modernize CSD’s learning environments, Canyons also has taken the appropriate yet entirely voluntary steps to ensure the water in our schools is safe to drink and use for food preparation.”
Canyons District was the first school district in Utah to conduct regular, scheduled water testing at all of its schools, including the new projects completed with funds from the $250 million voter-approved bond in 2010. Water testing will continue at the new and renovated schools that will be funded with proceeds from the $283 million bond measure approved by 57 percent of voters on Nov. 7, 2017. Both the measures were tax-rate-neutral.
Here’s how the testing works: Canyons District’s Risk Management Coordinator Kevin Ray arrives at the school before 6 a.m. to get a “first draw.” Those are samples of water that are pulled before any water can be used in the building. This is so the District can get a reading of the possible contaminant levels before the pipes are flushed with new, fresh water.
With each sample bottle, Ray caps it, seals it, and takes it to an independent testing agency to be examined. After a few days, CSD learns the milligrams-per-liter levels of iron, copper and lead. If the levels exceed those allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the District immediately notifies parents and teachers and begins a mitigation effort, especially with high levels of lead. Traces of other minerals or metals in the water also may be a signal that the pipes need to be examined.
“We want students and teachers to know that, through our efforts, they are going into a building that is free from any type of contaminant, be it airborne or in the water” says Ray, who also conducts regular radon-gas testing in Canyons schools. “It’s important to us that school communities are aware that we conduct these tests and are going to great lengths make sure there is safe drinking water in the schools.
Thanks to Canyons’ water-testing program, the District has been able to identify and mitigate water-quality issues at several schools. For example, filters were installed at Edgemont and East Midvale elementary schools to correct higher-than-the-EPA-guidelines levels of iron, and pipes and fixtures were replaced at Quail Hollow and the old Crescent View Middle when elevated levels of lead were detected. The results of recent lead testing are posted on the CSD website.
Patrons with questions about the water-testing program can call the Canyons Administration Building-East at 801-826-5000 and ask for CSD’s Office of Risk Management.